Ex-Honduran leader pleads guilty in U.S. FIFA bribery case

Mon Mar 28, 2016 2:11pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Honduran President Rafael Callejas pleaded guilty on Monday to U.S. charges that he participated in bribery schemes that are under investigation at soccer's world governing body FIFA.

Callejas, who is also the former president of the Honduran soccer federation, admitted in federal court in Brooklyn, New York that he sought bribes in connection with awarding media and marketing rights for World Cup qualifier matches.

"I knew that it was wrong for me to ask for and accept such undisclosed payments," Callejas said in court.

Callejas, who pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy, agreed as part of a plea deal to forfeit $650,000. His lawyer declined comment after the hearing.

Sentencing was set for Aug. 5 and the charges carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years each.

The 72-year-old is one of 42 individuals and entities charged as part of a U.S. investigation into more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks sought and received by soccer officials for marketing and broadcast rights to tournaments and matches.

The investigation has sent Switzerland-based FIFA and other soccer governing bodies into an unprecedented crisis. Gianni Infantino, FIFA's newly elected president, has vowed to restore FIFA's image.

To date, 14 people and two corporate entities have pleaded guilty in the U.S. case.   Continued...

Rafael Callejas  in Tegucigalpa, Honduras December 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera